Once I was a person who had time to read. Like really had time. As in, I could pick up a book, sit down on the couch, and read for an hour, knowing there’d be nothing to distract me. I could immerse myself in the story, the plot, the language, oblivious to what was going on around me. These days, the only thing I’m truly immersed in is laundry. (A little help here? I think I’m drowning.)
Kids eat up time (and food, and car keys, and something hard and brown they found under the couch). And just when you think your kid is off playing by himself and you might have a spare second to put your feet up with a book, he’s calling for you to come get him out of the bookshelf where he’s inexplicably wedged himself between two shelves. I’m pretty sure kids are born with some kind of sensor that goes off whenever it looks like Mom is about to relax.
But, even though my reading time has been severely compromised, there’s no way I’m going to quit reading. That would be like asking me to stop breathing. I like air. And I like books. And I need both. But, while I might have felt capable of tackling David Copperfield (an excellent book), or Anna Karenina (incredibly boring) before I became a mom of a small child, these days I need something I can pay less attention to. Something I can pick up, read two lines of, and then accidentally throw down the back of the couch when my kid starts screaming about a huge bug in his crib (it was pretend).
But easy reads that aren’t just trashy can be hard to come by. And there’s nothing worse than getting into a book and realizing the author can’t write, the plot is formulaic, and the characters are two-dimensional. Nobody has time for that. Least of all moms. So, if you’re like me and can’t kick your reading habit but don’t have time for the classics, here are a few books I’ve found thoroughly enjoyable, without being totally taxing. (Oh, and I tried to pick books that weren’t super well-known because I figured you’d have read the very popular books already.)
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite living writers (other than Andrew Klavan, of course). The only problem is that I don’t agree with her politics, and many of her books get political. Not Eligible, though. It’s a wildly enjoyable, modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. So, if you’re someone who (like me) used to read Jane Austen but no longer has the time, this will totally hit the spot. The way she modernizes the characters and the situation is nothing short of genius. And you find yourself rooting for Liz and Darcy even though you know exactly how the story ends. It’s an easy read, but not totally mindless. Perfect for moms on the go.
Phantom by Susan Kay
So, it’s possible I’m a little biased here, because I’m an absolute Phantom of the Opera fanatic. But I think this book is good in its own right. I first learned about it when I was watching an interview with one of the actors who played The Phantom on Broadway (yes, I’m the kind of person who sits around watching interviews with actors who played Phantom on Broadway), who said this book gave him new insight into his character. It’s another retelling, but it draws on both the original book by Gaston Leroux (which, if you ever have actual time ever again, is wildly entertaining) and the Broadway musical. It tells the story of The Phantom’s early life, and how he came to inhabit the depths of the Paris opera house.
Matthew Shardlake Series by C.J. Sansom
Full disclosure: I’m a Tudor history geek. Which is how I came upon this mystery series by C.J. Sansom. But you don’t have to know anything at all about Tudor England to find these entertaining. I read the last book, Lamentation, while breastfeeding my son so I can say with authority it’s a book busy moms can enjoy. Matthew Shardlake is a hunchbacked lawyer, with a sharp intellect and a detective’s meticulousness, who keeps finding himself in the middle of dangerous and mysterious circumstances. Each book is a traditional who-done-it with the added fun of being set against the real-life backdrop of Tudor England. The first book is called Dissolution and there are currently six books in the series.
Bag of Bones by Stephen King
If you haven’t read any Stephen King, and you enjoy a good scary story, it’s time to start. His books are perfect for busy moms because they’re easy to read, gripping, and fun. But they’re not trashy, like some other horror/suspense novels. I’m assuming you’ve read some Stephen King, which is why I’m recommending this lesser-known book, Bag of Bones, which is a spooky little story that’s not gory or violent. There was a terrible TV mini-series based on this book, with Pierce Brosnan. Don’t watch that. Or, if you already did, don’t let it turn you off of the book. The book is a ghost story (rather than a horror story) and follows grieving widower Mike Noonan as he tries to figure out who (or what) is haunting his summerhouse. (If you’ve never read Stephen King because you don’t like horror stories, but you’re okay with thrillers/suspense, you can also check out The Dead Zone and Firestarter.)